Can We Have Movie Posters Like This Again, Please?
Film posters are rubbish. That wasn't always the case, but somewhere along the way the wrong people took over and film posters went from something you'd want in a frame on your wall to something that isn't even palatable outside a cinema. Tyler Stout, an illustrator from Washington, may turn out to be our saviour. Go to his site and you'll see his excellent music and skateboard art – but it's his incredible film work that is really helping him make a name for himself.
Vice: Have you spent all your life watching films?
Tyler Stout: I've spent a good portion of my life watching films. College was no exception. Even in high school me and my friend would rent ten movies for ten bucks and watch them all in one sitting; that was our idea of an awesome weekend. Needless to say I didn't have a girlfriend until I was well into my 20s.
How did you get into designing film posters?
I started out doing posters for music venues while I was in college. Every venue needs 11x17 flyers to advertise upcoming shows, so I started doing those. Eventually I was asked to contribute to the Alamo Drafthouse cinema in Austin, Texas, basically to advertise upcoming showings of older classic movies like The Thing or The Warriors. I got asked to do one and people responded well, so they asked me to do more and it went from there.
Judging from the passion and detail in your posters – especially the attention to specific moments and supporting characters – I take it you're a big fan of 80s cinema.
Yeah, I came late to 1980s movies; my parents were pretty strict so I missed most of them until I was in my late teens, in the 90s. I couldn't watch anything R-rated, and the best 80s movies were R-rated. Practical special effects, total commitment to stories (no matter how unlikely), iconic actors – there just won't be another decade in movies like the 80s. Take 1984, for example: Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Spinal Tap, Terminator, Red Dawn, Nightmare On Elm Street. All in one year. That's nuts.
What films from that era would you kill to design a poster for?
I have a ton I'd like to do. Maybe something different like Rambo or something. Of course the holy grail would be Escape From New York. That's my all-time 'want to do' poster.
I heard you're inspired by comic artists. Any in particular? And what comics are you reading at the moment?
I'm a big Alan Moore fan, but who isn't? I'm usually more inspired by the art than the story, so the perfect storm for me are the ones that have both. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen would be one of those, with Moore writing and Kevin O'Neill illustrating. I like a lot of Geof Darrow's work, a lot of Frank Miller's stuff, Mike Mignola (Hellboy). At the moment I'm reading the Fear Agent series. The first few are illustrated by Tony Moore, who I really like, but after he left they found some other pretty outstanding artists.
I'm also looking to pick up The Art of Tim Burton book, whose illustration work I've always been inspired by and probably ripped off. A lot of these people – Burton, Miller, Mignola – are pretty mainstream now but that doesn't take away from the accomplishments that brought them fame. Even though Miller's The Spirit movie wasn't that great, the dude still reinvented comics with The Dark Knight Returns in '86.
Do you think the film poster is a dying art?
I don't think so, I think it just goes through phases. Right now it's very dependent on movie stars' faces, but eventually I think it'll go back towards conceptual posters, or fine art illustrated posters – anything that grabs people's attention by being different. I think the reason I've had some success in my poster work is because people are interested in hand-illustrated movie posters.
I'm not a big fan of contemporary film posters. I'm sure there are some great ones but when I buy book collections of film posters, I don't buy ones covering the 2000s, or even 1990s; it's more 1980s, 1970s, etc. I think it's just a matter of craft; if people put the same amount of time and effort into a current movie poster that was put into a film poster like Chinatown, you'd have some pretty amazing results.
I think marketing companies can be guilty of just phoning it in, big heads floating above whatever. I love 1970s exploitation posters the best, the ones with an explosion of stuff going on. The more stuff on a poster, the better.